The contestants partake in a disgusting food challenge that's one for the books.
I ate a bowl of soup once when I was kid. It was probably Campbell’s and I was probably around 8 or so. I actually didn’t eat a whole lot of soup back in my formative years. Instead, it was all Chef Boyardee (beef ravioli in tomato sauce was my jam) and Franco-American (SpaghettiOs with meatballs in the house!). But for whatever reason, on this day, it was soup.
I took a bite…or a slurp…or however the hell one eats soup. It was okay. I mean, it had pieces of hot dog in it so it couldn’t have been all that great; however, it was fine for a stupid kid from Washington, D.C. But I decided it needed a lil’ somethin’-somethin’. As you’ve probably guessed by now, my house was not exactly considered the height of culinary cuisine. (Swanson TV dinners were also on the menu. As were Steak-umms. And pretty much any other food processed within an inch of its life.) So when I talk about adding a lil’ somethin’-somethin’, I mean I grabbed a saltshaker and started pouring. And pouring. And pouring.
Clearly at this stage of my life I was unfamiliar with the term “a pinch.” So then I went back to my soup and ate a few bites. Let’s just say the concoction was less than agreeable. A trip to the Vomitorium ensued and I could not get the taste of severely oversalted hot dog soup out of my mouth for weeks. And from that point in time forward, any time I start to feel sick, my mind immediately races back to that fateful soup misadventure and I can practically taste it again right now. (Note to self: Do not puke on laptop. Do not puke on laptop. Do not puke…)
I also think of that terrible experience every time we are treated — if that is the right word — to a disgusting Survivor food challenge. As the above story may have illustrated, I have a pretty weak stomach. I would be beyond terrible in this challenge. In fact, I already have been terrible in it. Those jabronies Holmes & Wigler destroyed me in a boiled scorpion-eating contest once. But there is something delightful about watching other people having to suffer through such shenanigans.
This has been a Survivor staple going all the way to season 1 when — if memory serves correct — Gervase lost to Stacey in a beetle larvae eating contest because he was too busy yelling “DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU!” with his mouth full of bug bits. For a while, the show went to more of a gross smoothie drinking contest, which was a shame because you could not see the actual food and instead it all just looked like big green mush. And, for a while, the food eating contest seemed to disappear altogether. If I was running Survivor — and let’s all thank the lord I am not — the first thing I would do is insist this challenge appeared every season.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The real first thing I would do is insist that Jeff Probst go back to jetskiing / skydiving / motorcycling / parasailing / submarining / paddleboarding / jetpacking the votes back to the United States. Then I would go back to a final 2 and get rid of the new final 5 fire-making tiebreaker. And then I would cast Shane Powers but tell him that instead of money, he was playing for coffee and cigarettes. And then I would implement my idea about hiding an individual immunity idol in the tribe immunity idol. And yes, granted there are a few other things I’d do, like have a reward challenge where the losers are forced to listen to Chris Noble rapping for 12-hours straight, but the point is, eventually I would get to insisting they do a food challenge each and every season.
I love food challenges because they get to the essence of why Survivor is so amazing. We get to sit in the climate-controlled comfort of our living room stuffing our faces with pretzel nuggets and Sun Chips while these poor saps suffer for our enjoyment. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fish eyes!!! They had to eat fish eyes! Did you see Wendell attempt to pick one of those up? He recoiled so much it was as if he had immediately contracted the dreaded cooties virus at the mere touch of the eyeball. AND I DON’T BLAME HIM!! I would rather have cooties instead of eat that thing, and we all know that if science has proven one thing and one thing only it is that there is no cure for cooties!
And the scariest part of the fish eyes is the fact that they were the least scary thing on the entire menu. There were also sea slugs. You see these things on the ocean floor out there and they are not small. The fact that Angela shoved an entire one in her mouth…and then took it out…and then shoved it in again…and then took it out again was simply cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs. She’s a crazy person, plain and simple. Sea Bass was right, that was gagoriffic.
And then I have no idea what that last item was. It sounded like Probst said Mother of Pearl, but it may as well have been Mother of Hurl as far as I’m concerned. And hurling is what Michael looked like he was about to do the entire time that thing was in his mouth. The dude was convulsing so much I thought he had stuck his finger in a hidden electrical socket on the underside of the table.
But the grossest of all these dishes had to be the beetle larvae — because you are eating something that is still alive and crawling inside your mouth as you eat it! Sorry, but that is going to be a hard pass from me, thanks. Honestly, if I had been up there and seen that I would have just left and sat back down on the bench. Maybe that shows a lack of fortitude. Perhaps it signals I am not the true competitor you always assumed me to be. But here’s the thing: YOU NEVER ATE THE OVERSALTED SOUP! It still haunts me to this day.
Which is why what Angela did is even that much more impressive to me. While Michael was at war with his mouth and stomach in that final round, Angela was dancing and doing jumping jacks like some sort of lunatic. And while yes, I do love to watch people suffer in this competition, I also like to see who is able to push through the pain. Now, granted, that may be only because I was mildly obsessed with Survivor: All-Stars’ weekly “Tylenol Push Through the Pain” award back in 2004, but I also do like to see people triumph in the face of adversity. (As long as others are failing spectacularly at the same time.)
My only complaint about this entire challenge is that we did not get a cameo appearance from the most gnarly of all Survivor dishes — balut. Those partially formed bird embryos (in which contestants can taste feathers and parts of the beak) are considered a delicacy by some. And instant puke-o-rama by others. I’d love to see how they are considered by the contestants of season 37.
Okay, let’s get into all the other notes and nonsense from the latest episode.
A Tale of Two Doms
Domenick is a really good player. But he also can’t help himself sometimes. I was thiiiiiiiiiiis close to picking him as my pre-season pick to win it all after talking with him before the game, but part of me worried if his big mouth might get him into trouble. And then, just a few minutes into the game, he called out a guy who he had not even said a single word to yet at that point when he raised his hand and informed Probst that he would have done things differently than Chris in the opening challenge.
Phew, I thought to myself while watching that from a few feet away out there on the island. Glad I didn’t pick THAT guy! Dom’s entire game has been one big rollercoaster ride of highs (Finding an idol! Getting a Legacy Advantage! Defeating his arch-nemesis!) and lows (That opening blunder! The nonsensical and confusing fake idol situation! Getting blindsided with the Morgan vote!). And Domenick was refreshingly candid in his merge interview about his hits and misses in the game so far. But the best example of the two sides of Dom can probably be seen in how he acted at last week’s Tribal Council and then immediately after this week.
At last week’s Tribal, it was all about Domenick the showman. He gave a long, entertaining presentation that even earned him literal applause from Jeff Probst. He offered up color commentary as Chris went up to vote. He yelled his vote for Chris so that everyone could hear. Quite simply, he made a spectacle of himself. And for us viewers, it was entertaining as hell. But probably not very smart game strategy to put such a neon sign around his neck flashing “CHECK ME OUT! I’M THE MAN!” over and over. (And yes, I realize that would be a big sign, but Dom’s a big guy so he could handle it.)
So back at camp right after Tribal, we saw the other Dom in his Jekyll and Hyde act. “I’m not gloating tonight,” he told his tribemates, somehow without laughing. “I have a lot of respect for Chris. I know I made a show out there of it, but it was not a proud moment for me.” Again, without laughing. Dom’s a smart guy. It’s just that sometimes he can’t help himself. He pretty much said exactly that in our merge interview. It will be fascinating to see if he can rein himself in now that the Noble One is out of the game. On the other hand, I don’t want him to rein himself in too much because he’s so damn entertaining.
Zip the Lips!
NEWSFLASH: Laurel is smart! I know this because she wears glasses and aren’t people with glasses supposed to be, like, smart or something? I also know this because I watched her do well on the first slide puzzle of the season and, oh, yeah, she graduated from Yale.
The point is, Laurel knows what she’s doing out there. So why Wendell would go and tell her that he and Dom each have an immunity idol is beyond me. I mean, I know why he did it. He’s trying to build trust and show her she can trust him. But what makes Wendell think he can trust her? Sure, sometimes the sharing of such information can strengthen bonds. But many more times than that, the info being revealed has led to the person revealing it being knocked out of the game. Information is power. When you give it to someone, you give some of your power away, and you give it to the person you tell because you now cannot control whom THEY tell.
Also, there are other ways to build connections with people besides telling them you have an idol. Now, the counterpoint would be that if you don’t tell an alliance partner you have an idol and then use it, you may have broken some trust and have damage control to do after, but you know what I say — better to do damage control later than be on a boat to Ponderosa because you got voted out. Also, you are already doing damage control now because you didn’t tell her already. As Laurel told us: “I think he’s shown that I can only trust him to a certain point.” So you’re doing damage control at some point no matter which option you choose.
And I will tell you this: If I am Laurel and my ride-or-die is Donathan, and we find out the other two people in our alliance (Dom and Wendell) both have idols, then that is a pretty massive power imbalance. I am now going to think twice if those are the people I want to be heading towards the end with, especially if they are going to be busy building their resumes along the way. All of a sudden folks like Jenna and Desiree seem a lot more appealing.
Laurel and Donathan did not flip on Wendell here, but we saw at least Donathan seriously considering it. Did that conversation ultimately cost Wendell a million dollars? Possibly. We’ll have to wait to find out, but even so, it will serve as the latest example of players not being able to shut up about their hidden items in the game.
Stephen Fishbach’s Worst Nightmare
Any time I see a challenge that involves launching sand bags at targets I am immediately reminded of this.
Granted, I am reminded of that on pretty much a daily basis whether there is a target challenge or not. And poor Fishbach is reminded of it as well because I make it a point to constantly remind him. Unfortunately, nobody hit the other team’s target in this reward challenge in which players had to race across a floating bridge to a slingshot and then launch and hit 6 targets, but it was still a fun one to watch.
The reason this challenge always works is because it requires tremendous physicality (did you see how many people could not even come close to reaching the target?) but is also simple to follow. It’s easy to track where each of the teams stand and it’s also easy to see who the real heroes and goats are. In this case, the heroes were Wendell and Laurel, who hit all of their targets for the reward, which was lots of Mexican food items that Jeff Probst sounded like he wanted to have sex with. (Seriously, just listen to the man: “Taaaaaaaacos. Burriiiiiiiiitos, quesadiiiiiiiiillas, margariiiiiiiiiiitas.”) Of course, someone also had to be sent to Ghost Island.
NO GAME FOR YOU.
Angela Gets Her Game On (Or Does She?)
As we illustrated already with Wendell, you have to be very careful what you say to people. At the same time, you sometimes have to be considerably less careful when you are most likely the next target. Which brings us to Michael. Michael most likely knew he was next on the chopping block, so he could not afford to sit back. He had to try to change the game. So he went to the exact person he should have gone to — the person seemingly on the bottom of the majority alliance. Angela was not in the loop on the last vote to get the Noble One out. Naviti even tried to get rid of her weeks ago. If anyone would be open to flipping, it should be her. It was a risk Michael had to take.
So he took it, planting a seed about Dom and Wendell as a power pair and reminding Angela that Kellyn had not included her on the last vote. And what did Angela do with all of this? She immediately went and told Kellyn and Wendell. Before she did this, Angela told us in an interview that she wanted to stir things up and use her old army training to sew discontent and confusion. She made it seem like it was a plan of hers all along. But is that what really happened, or was this revisionist history?
Here’s a fun little Survivor fact. You don’t need a television producing background to figure out that the interviews that narrate the action are usually done after that action on the beach that is being described. What that means, quite simply, is that the reason a player gives us for doing what they did is not necessarily the truth. There definitely is a bit of revisionist history that goes into many of these interviews. In essence, these players are often unreliable narrators.
A glaring example would be Allan last season. We saw him freaking out and making JP strip naked to prove he didn’t have a hidden immunity idol. He also did a lot of other wacky stuff. But then, in his confessional interview that went along with it, he made it seem like it was all some expertly concocted and purely calculated scheme on his part to make JP seem untrustworthy to his tribemates. I didn’t buy a single second of it. To me, it was obvious that Allan just lost it for a bit and then when he sat down for his interview the next day, he tried to cover his tracks with some cockamamie story to make himself seem smarter and more stable than he was.
I’m not so sure that what happened here with Angela was not some of the same. Now, Angela did not run off and do anything crazy. But I’m not sure did anything so genius as she is suggesting either. Often, as we’ve shown, players get info and just love to share it, because it is exciting to share info and gossip when there is nothing else to do out there except braid Sea Bass’ hair. My best guess is that Angela did not necessarily have any sort of master plan but just repeated what she heard and then later presented a narrative that was not necessarily accurate. But again, that happens on this show ALL. THE. TIME. I mean, why wouldn’t people want to present the best possible version of themselves for millions of people to watch. I get it. But it makes separating fact from fiction difficult.
The (Other) Dynamic Duo
Can we pause for the cause to give some well-earned props to Laurel and Donathan? They are playing this game very well and I will tell you why. Back when the two original Malolos were on new Naviti after the first tribe swap, they and the other Malolos gained power when they ousted Morgan. Now Laurel and Donathan had the numbers! They could go on cruise control for a few votes and not have to worry about a damn thing.
But that would have been shortsighted. Instead, they played a long game. They made a secret alliance with Domenick and Wendell, and here’s why that was so genius. If that Naviti tribe had lost again, they could just take out Chris and Angela instead and continue the Malolo majority. No big deal. But let’s say other tribes went to Tribal and more Malolos went home so that Naviti went into the merge with numbers. Well, now Laurel and Donathan were protected because they had some moles within the majority alliance. Either way, they were now protected. Smart. Very smart.
And now Laurel and Donathan seem to be on everyone’s side. We never hear their names as potential people to vote out. And we never hear their names as huge threats that need to be taken out at some point either. They are the true stealth assassins of this season, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I really liked both of them when we spoke before the game started but didn’t have a good sense of how they would play.
Remember that Tribal Council a few weeks back when Probst asked players if they made decisions with their head or their heart? Why Laurel and Donathan appear to work so well together is that she plays from the head and Donathan plays from the heart, which means their game ends up being an amalgam of the two — which is to say, Kellyn’s gut.
It appeared Donathan wanted to flip the script this week, and we even saw him telling Libby about the plan to put votes on her and Michael. (More on that in a minute.) As for what they should have actually done — like them, I’m split. On one hand, Wendell and Domenick have way too much power and this was a Tribal neither was likely to use their idol. A good opportunity to take one of the out.
But what if they did use an idol and blocked the big play? Then Laurel and Donathan would have lost their comfy, cozy protection moving forward. And even if Wendell did go home, they would still then have to go find a new core alliance to hook up with and maybe they were equally as uneasy about some of the other Malolos. (Remember: They never appeared close with Michael, Jenna, or Libby in the original tribe.) It’s a tough call.
“Does Not Count.”
Why do I love it so much when Jeff Probst says those words? And the more times he says them, the better it is. It’s mesmerizing. “Does not count…Does not count…Does not count…Does not count.” I feel like I’m been hypnotized — hypnotized by awesomeness. This time it was Michael using his idol and nullifying seven — SEVEN! — votes. Kelley Wentworth nullified nine votes with an idol in Cambodia, which I believe is the record — can’t recall if someone ever did more but tweet me @DaltonRoss if you can remember anyone that deflected more in a single Tribal Council — but still, seven is a lot of damn wasted votes.
A few other quick notes about Tribal Council. With Michael giving Probst Ozzy’s infamous “f—ing stick” fake idol (now a real idol), it got me wondering about something. Whenever someone gives Probst a fake idol, he throws it in the fire. In fact, you can still see the burn marks on Ozzy’s stick from when Probst threw it in there. (It was ultimately fished out later by EP Matt Van Wagenen.)
But what if they decide to do another season of Ghost Island at some point? Do they really want to risk burning and breaking potential future props for a Ghost Island 2? Are the days of Probst throwing fake idols into the fire finally over?!? Only a complete moron would spend sleepless nights worrying about such things, and I am that moron. So, naturally, I asked Probst about it and you can see his answer in this week’s Q&A.
Libby’s Last Stand
The other thing I want to address from Tribal Council is Libby’s vote. I don’t get it — beyond pure self-preservation, that is. Since Donathan told Libby that Naviti was splitting the votes between Michael and Libby, that meant Libby knew she was going home if Michael had an idol. Michael was voting for Wendell. That meant all they needed was to flip two people — and one of them in Jenna was a Michael ally — and Wendell may have gone home.
But this never happened. For some reason, Libby and Jenna voted for Michael. Knowing she was in danger, did Libby push hard to do something else? Did she sit back and decide her best bet was not to make waves but just hope Michael did not have an idol? What exactly went down, because I feel like we’re missing some key intel here (likely because it would have telegraphed the vote too much)?
I’m also curious because I would have liked to have seen more of Libby’s game. We heard vague declarations about how she was “Parvati 2.0,” from Dom but never saw anything in the edit to back that up. So did she have some sort of epic social-meets-strategy game we never saw, or was Dom just trying to give Bradley a different target to focus in on so he didn’t see the knife Dom was about to plunge into his back? It would have been nice to see more from her before her exit to find out exactly what kind of player she was. Instead, she’ll have to go listen to Chris Noble’s raps at Ponderosa for the next 14 days, which makes her perhaps the ultimate winner this season.
So that will pretty much do it. Another solid installment in what is shaping up to be a very strong post-merge season. Can’t wait to see where it goes next. But I can tell you where you’re hopefully going next. You’re going to check out our exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode above, along with other video goodies throughout the recap. You’re going to read my weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeffrey Probst. And hopefully you’ll be going to read my exit interview with Libby once that comes in on Thursday. Of course, you can always follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss to be kept up to speed on all the latest Survivor developments.
But now it’s your turn. Did Wendell err by giving away too much intel? Did Laurel and Donathan make the right move? Should Libby have tried to shake things up more? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!